Texas Not Fooling Anyone With Its PlatitudesPosted by rtmsf on July 21st, 2011
Imagine if high school basketball games involving elite hoops recruits around the country were put on the Duke Basketball Network, coming to you nightly from December to March on your local cable package (and no, this post isn’t a not-so-subtle shot at ESPN). After the initial uproars from Lexington, Chapel Hill, Lawrence and other basketball hotbeds subsided, imagine then that Mike Krzyzewski, as spokesperson and progenitor of the DBN, gave an interview where he said:
We do not want to use it as a recruiting advantage. We don’t want it tied to [Duke. The DBN carrier] knows we don’t want to violate any NCAA rules and they don’t want to. [...] We want to play by the rules. We want everything to be in the open with integrity.
To back up his claims, imaginary Coach K added that the DBN would not be involved in selecting the games and that the word “Duke” would not be attached to the broadcast in any way (you know, except for the fact that you have to tune into the Duke Basketball Network to see the game in the first place). Would you believe it? Isn’t he asking you to undergo a considerable afternoon of mental calisthenics in order to believe there’s absolutely no association between those two things — the players shown and the school’s network?
It’s patently absurd. People make such associations without even thinking, and a removal of some of the associated branding does next to nothing to remove that perception. Will a kid playing on the DBN tomorrow night tell all his friends that he’s playing on Dish Network channel 146 instead? Will fans around the country not automatically assume that a player on their screen has already committed to play for Duke (after all, why would the DBN be showing it?). Of course not. It’s a huge marketing (and, by proxy, recruiting) advantage.
Through this lens, it’s easy to see why Texas A&M will hold a Thursday meeting to consider its options in light of recent news that the brand-new Longhorn Network plans to show a number of high school football games on its station. Switch out Coach K above in our imaginary world for Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds in the real one and you see the obvious problem for A&M as well as the rest of the NCAA’s affiliated football schools. The phrase is overused and hackneyed, but the Longhorn Network truly is a game-changer in college athletics. Only a handful of schools nationally have the alumni base, regional population, and obsessive fan culture to support such an enterprise; and that’s what scares the hell out of everyone from Eugene to Gainesville.
Dodds surely grins ear to ear when he says these things (and just to be clear, the above quote was from him on Wednesday), as he knows better than anyone that UT is the school holding all of the cards. Even if the NCAA decrees that The Longhorn Network is prohibited from broadcasting prep games, the mere fact that we’re bothering to discuss it shows just how far ahead of everyone else his school sits. Whether this is the straw that finally forces Texas A&M and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, thereby allowing UT cover to move to the Pac-12 (its preference), remains to be seen. But make no mistake about the platitudes coming from Austin — Texas has spent the last thirty years building its advantage, they’re not about to slow down now.